The past two decades have witnessed an explosion in our understanding of pancreatic cancer, and it is now clear that pancreatic cancer is a disease of inherited (germ-line) and somatic gene mutations. The genes mutated in pancreatic cancer include KRAS2, p16/CDKN2A, TP53, and SMAD4/DPC4, and these are accompanied by a substantial compendium of genomic and transcriptomic alterations that facilitate cell cycle deregulation, cell survival, invasion, and metastases. Pancreatic cancers do not arise de novo, and three distinct precursor lesions have been identified. Experimental models of pancreatic cancer have been developed in genetically engineered mice, which recapitulate the multistep progression of the cognate human disease. Although the putative cell of origin for pancreatic cancer remains elusive, minor populations of cells with stem-like properties have been identified that appear responsible for tumor initiation, metastases, and resistance of pancreatic cancer to conventional therapies.